Buy where you live.

March 16th, 2008 by John Morris

About every two decades, an interloper hits the market; becomes highly successful, and the business model gets skewed again. One time, it was Walmart with its predatory march to destroy all small businesses wherever their latest dandilions popped up. Communities feared for their merchants when Walmart opened and later feared for their own economic survival when they closed. America still supports this giant retailer even while the former “Mom & Pop” stores remain abandoned.

The newest challenge to the marketplace is eBay. There is a simple principle in the on-line shopping giant: allow anyone with something to sell to offer it to anyone in the world. Let it go to the highest bidder. The market will set the value of the item, and this can all be done from your PC.

I buy from eBay. I admire the ethic of most of the vendors I have met. They actually seem interested in servicing my needs and not just separating me from my money – that’s a given. The seller’s eBay rating is critical to doing business for them. If it’s less than 95%, it makes buyers like me nervous. This hanging sword makes sellers behave in a manner all vendors should behave. eBay’s core principles work.

One issue about eBay troubles me. I’m never certain if the bargains winging its way to me are not stolen goods. I get an image of roving bands of thieves hitting stores like Walmart to fill their seedy warehouses with stuff. The goods are then sold for whatever on eBay, and no one is the wiser. eBay says it can’t monitor how an item comes available for bid. It just does the best it can to make the exchange happen while policing the vendors’ actions. I wonder if eBay and I are just cogs in fencing operations of the bad guys.

My most recent purchase was a pair of steel toed boots. They retailed for $140.00, and my total cost, including shipping, was $49.95. They were better than advertised, and I’m pleased about the purchase. But on further review, I did turn my back on a local store when I made this buy. Even if I maintain it’s not a big thing, the cumulative effect is putting a hurt on established merchants.

I offer this blog to plant the idea in your mind that we must continue to support our local merchants. They are the ones who suffer the blunt of assault from Walmart, eBay and the next marauding Hun looking to ravage our competitive marketplace.

Give the store in town the first look and buy from them when the prices are close enough. They live where you do and pay taxes. They are the same citizens who help out the many worthy activities in your town. Ask yourself, “When was the last time you saw a Little League team sponsored by eBay?”

Your local merchants deserve medals for their actions. Let’s give them the business instead.

P.S.: I do feel strongly that we should buy locally and I do plan to do so. However, I admit I published this blog to help calm my guilty feelings about buying on eBay.


March 7th, 2008 by John Morris

On slow days, I let my inner “news junkie” out. Last weekend, I watched a CNN story about blind North Koreans who have had government sponsored operations hoping to restore their vision.

The blind Koreans were brought to the front of a crowded conference room for the reveal. The eye bandages were removed, and the emotions of anyone, who was blind and could now see, came forth appropriately.

What happened next did surprise me.

Each one started chanting the praises of Kim Jong-il, their country’s leader. Their praises may have seemed over the top, but I don’t know how I would react after getting such a blessing.

Each patient did seem coached because their outcries were too identical. The people around them danced with too much practiced zeal. I’m sure the whole event was staged for the world’s cameras, but it did remind me of events long ago.

During the Vietnam war, the North Vietnamese people and their supporters in the south sang the praises of their charismatic leader, Ho Chi Minh.

What did we Americans sing while we were in Vietnam?

The Animals’ “We gotta get out of this place!”

Sticker shock at Wegman’s

March 2nd, 2008 by John Morris

Wegman’s is an upscale food market. People who shop there do so believing they are having high quality shopping experiences. This store have some amazing stuff to back up their image.

I shopped there Saturday at midnight to avoid the crowds. There was me and about six others banging around. One lone cashier earned his paycheck by looking busy.

My goal was to buy some loose leaf green teas at Wegman’s because they carry a respectful assortment. Each flavor is stored in large, stainless steel cans. The outside labels list the type and price along with a well crafted description of the tea’s flavor. One label caught my attention because of its price tag: $79.00 a pound. This was more than three times the price of their tea ordinaire. Keeping in mind that a pound of tea will make about 200 cups, I did the math to determine that each cup will cost $0.395 per cup just for the leaves. I wondered what could make any tea this pricey.

I lifted the can’s lid and drank in the tea’s heady aroma. It reminded me of the teas I had in China. No way I was going to leave there without this tea. I reasoned I would save it for celebrations; when I either need a lift or be reminded that life has some extraordinary gifts for us to enjoy.

Some are free; some are cheap while others are worth the price of admission.

Passing along the trivia crown

March 1st, 2008 by John Morris

In the Army, my friends and I played a game of trivia that floated for months. We spend our off-game time looking for killer questions to ask. We never really finished the game. We all got pretty sharp at trivia, and no one was the clear winner.

A lot of time passed and some marketing wizards developed “Trivia Pursuit”. I stumbled on to this game at a barbecue. The college crowd was playing as I watched. I asked if I could answer some of the harder questions. They tried to stump me but had little success.

I gained some local notoriety as a trivia whiz. My friends swore I read the cards and studied the answers. I told my friends I was looking for mistakes.

I have played trivia for years now and have relished in the role of elder statesman. However, I have noticed a trend that will make me no longer a top player.

The newer trivia questions asked at the local contests are from my later adult years. I realized that my general knowledge of 80s, 90s and 00s trivia is p-poor. I can still be relied on for questions based on the earlier decades, but I rapidly see the march of time changing the source of questions to the early decades of my children and young friends. This is as it should be. It’s their turn.

When a question comes up about the olden days, my Saturday night trivia team will turn their attention to me. One or more will say, “John, you should know. You were there.”



The old boy writing this blog wears many hats: Vietnam Veteran, husband & father, salesman and techno-dude. After my service with the Army Security Agency, I operated a sign company for nineteen years, The sign industry changed after CAD/CAM machines made the task easy enough for the non-talented. I sold my company and never looked back.

Life has granted me a life partner better than I deserve. My wife, Lyn is a transplanted Kansas gal. Her bliss is teaching kindergarten and first grade.

I am the most proud of my children. My son, Adam lives an international life teaching English and living in Sozhou, China. He is married to one of life's truly lovely women, Yuri Kim. My daughter, Beth grew up in a small town and found her way in life means working and living in major cities like Chicago and New York. She and her life partner, Julie Sterling married in LaJolla, California in 2010.

I like getting the newest gadgets, but also I like to use things until they are useless, i.e., my last personal car was an 88 Honda Prelude Si.

I wrote a Vietnam Veteran newsletter for nine years. During this journey, I learned I like to write. It is a harmless exercise that rewards honest effort while tolerating failure gracefully. I been away from it for too long. My son gave me the blog, and it was a lifeline back to writing.

My best advice is to show the world what you can do but to accept only your opinion of who and what you are.

Update: In August 2008, my job became one of the half-million jobs that went away that month. I took the following year getting the home ready for my official retirement.

In October 2009, I took a part-time job as a saleman at the vaulted Maxwell's Hardware.

On November 29, 2011, I reached my 66th birthday, and I officially started Social Security. I intend to stay with Maxwell's as long as I can contribute.